2021 OER Champion Nominees

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Congratulations James Wilson!!

Congratulations to James Wilson for being selected as the Lyryx OER Champion of 2021. Lyryx will be presenting the Faculty of Mathematics at Colorado State University with an award of $1,500 to help further fund OER initiatives.

You can read about these initiatives, along with those of other impactful OER advocates of 2021 below.

James Wilson

Institution: Colorado State University

Position: Associate Professor

Course(s) using OER: Math 369 Linear Algebra 

Your OER Story:

I have been pursuing lower-cost teaching materials for college students for more than a decade. Like many I began with choosing paperback texts, old editions, and generally items with lower price tags. When OER became available I switched to these and quickly discovered the very wide ranging quality, coverage, and tone of these works. It was about that time now 7+ years ago that I invested in educating myself about OER and figuring out how to remove barriers to finding and using high quality OER resources. I have been adopting and helping others adopt OER ever sense. 

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How do you demonstrate leadership in open education with the use of OER materials? 

I use OER in all my courses for which a quality text has emerged and have done so for close to a decade and with that I invest in learning the new technologies that often come with this, in the form of online grading, embedded content, and mixinsI’ve worked with faculty to adopt these resources in our large enrollment classes and specifically these last couple years as the coordinator for Linear algebra. 

 

What contributions (editing/ creating/ maintaining materials) have you made to help advance OER? 

Within my own courses I “mixin” adaptations to chapters and sections geared to our unique student population. This is the thrilling upside for faculty in adopting OER you can customize to your needs. As these materials mature they get shared as open resources for anyone to use include entire course integrated into canvas shared as creative commons license material. I collect student responses to understand the complexities of the OER material from their perspective and use this to refine our approaches in the coming terms. More outward facing efforts include I reviewing OER texts and adopting and debugging systems to give a genuine up-to-date assessment of the tools. OER is more than textbook and improving it takes into account the full classroom experience. 

 

How do you advocate OER? 

Each year for the past 7 or so years I have been an invited panelist in training workshops on OER in my state. Faculty need to hear form other faculty who are willing to give honest reflections the good, the bad, the does, and don’t of OER. They also respond best to faculty confront them about our laziness in selecting a text of convenience and the real difference with what students face in cost of education compared to our own experiences. 

I am also an at large member of our state’s OER council for higher-ed (one of the founding members but stepped down for sabbatical). My work there is to look at long term goals and barriers to OER, listen to student feedback, represent faculty concerns, and advise would-be OER creators. 

 

How do you demonstrate social responsibility with respect to educational materials? 

Working with my university librarians I have worked to remove institutional barriers to OER. This included understanding the challenges faced by front office staff and bookstores in stocking OER texts (often a process far different from traditional publishing). We created a simple to follow brochure to guide staff through the adoption and remove this as a barrier. I’ve worked to create low cost access to online homework. Partnering with Lyryx we’ve made great use of Free Lab in our Lyryx courses. During the pandemic we couldn’t offer a physical space so I worked with Lyryx and our university office of financial aid to create a token system to use instead and this has brought substantial help to our students. OER gives me a chance to see the students in the classroom from so many more angles. 

 

Any other compelling aspects in your OER story? 

I was once told the Dean of Libraries that what she appreciated most about my contributions to faculty trainings on OER was my commitment to deliver the facts of OER honestly. I regularly bring in giant useless spiral bound printed copies of PDF of OER texts to demonstrate how a student might experience the textbook, or remark on the quality of the websites. I show them the thickness of OER texts compared to similar texts to illustrate the danger of over-writing that comes with an open text. I point to authors who are minority points of view but use the social aspects of OER to gain a larger audience. I do this to be transparent. But from that transparency I gain the trust to have a frank conversation. I don’t sell nor attempt to persuade. I just emphasize the reality that many of us faculty can be quick to select something we know not because it is better but because it is familiar. But when we reach for our best teaching it is almost always with a desire to be fair to all, to trade in facts that are public domain, and to feel the freedom to adapt material to our own experience and perspectives. In short, our best teaching is aligned with the goals of the best OER. And even though much of OER can fall short we can collectively move it closer to that. This I think characterizes my approach to OER different from what drives others: hopeful honesty.

Berhanu Kebede

Institution: Mount Royal University

Position: Instructor/Lecturer

Course(s) using OER: Micro and Macro Economics

Your OER Story:

I believe learning can only take place in an environment of trust and care. Whether it be through a textbook, a teacher, or a friend, online or in a classroom one cannot learn without experiencing these emotions. For learning experience to truly manifest and take hold of a student, it is imperative that they have no distractions or stress interfering with their experience. Introducing OER into my classroom has made this stress free learning a reality. Removing the weight of added school fees from the students’ shoulders has really encouraged them to pursue their learning with a new vigor, I have found that even with learning being online, I’ve had more engagement and found that the students maintained a greater grasp on the course material over the course of the semester. I have been a long time user of Lyrx and the accompanying textbooks for economics courses and can truly say it is a game changer in the field of online education and moreover, the learning experience of our students. 

Beginning this term I have introduced an additional financial support offer to incentivise learning and help my students with their financial burden in whatever way I can. I have offered to cover the cost of their Lyrx (program/textbook…) if they submit a short essay regarding their financial needs and in turn how these needs affect their learning experience. This coupled with their grades, will be the criteria I will use to select the students most deserving of this aid. These measures will not only motivate students to work harder to improve their marks but also provide additional learning for students to adapt a social responsibility to help others 

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How do you demonstrate leadership in open education with the use of OER materials? 

At the beginning of my first classes, and in my course outline I always discuss why I choose 

Lyryx and the online OER. My decision is solely based on cost and benefit analysis, for the same quality of 

learning and assessment materials that other sources are offering, 

The Lyryx option is not only significantly cheaper, it’s also a product of a higher quality. 

 

What contributions (editing/ creating/ maintaining materials) have you made to help advance OER? 

I have worked for Lyryx reviewing the Micro and Macro test banks. 

Often I have sent suggestions to Lyryx support, to improve or correct 

questions and the accuracy of some questions. 

 

How do you advocate OER? 

As a senior lecturer in our department, I always make sure others know the benefit of Lyrya, 

especially new instructors. 

I also discuss the benefits of OER with my students, so that they seek to receive similar otiopns from 

the other courses they take 

 

How do you demonstrate social responsibility with respect to educational materials? 

As an educator and a parent, my responsibilities to promote OER include advocacy for affordable 

access to education and educational resources, for over 6 years as an instructor and over 10 years as a lab instructor I have always design my courses with the cost of education in mind. 

 

Any other compelling aspects in your OER story? 

My students LOVE OER, and because of that, they are enjoying learning! 

Maria Vincenten

Institution: Red River College

Position: Instructor

Course(s) using OER: MATH-1078: Business Mathematics

Your OER Story:

Our Business Administration program was approved for a redesign and courses were being assigned for development with COVID-19 forced Red River College to close its doors and pivoted all our applied courses into a virtual world. We learned a lot in those few months, enough to understand the challenges students and instructors face to keep the focus on the learning outcomes and not to allow the technology and tools to prevent students from learning. The program required a complete redevelop of our Business Mathematics course. Our focus was to move away from the use of formulas and calculators, and more towards the business mathematical relationships that students needed to understand. The tools they would end up using would be their decision. They needed to understand the what and why. We decided as a team to provide one porthole, Desire2Learn, from which students would access their virtual classes, support materials, and formative and summative assessments (including a Lyryx direct link) looking at concepts and calculations. 


In order to make this work, we sourced an OER Business Mathematics textbook and organized its chapters based on how we wanted to structure our learning modules. In other words, we fully customized the book to match the look of our online interface, adding supportive links with additional content which included public articles and videos, and created presentations and tools to support the flow and maintain the overall look. This allowed us to provide a resource that fitted the learning outcomes for the course.

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How do you demonstrate leadership in open education with the use of OER materials? 

Our design and resources were shared with others in the program — that way they could easily source OER materials. Leading by example, as further courses are now being developed, instructors are looking at OER due to its adaptive nature and accessibility.

 

What contributions (editing/ creating/ maintaining materials) have you made to help advance OER? 

Once the team had a functioning completed course, it was shared with a Red River College developer who then shared the story with others. Good news travels fast. After running through the course with a number of students, we uncovered a few minor typographical errors and a few content additions that were forwarded to the original author for updates. Currently, I am working on developing four other new courses for the program, three of which will be using OER resources. The fourth, is restricted to using official certification documentation. 
 

How do you advocate OER? 

When conducting environmental scans in secondary education, any connections made with other educators involves the discussion of resources. Existing links to OER portholes are being shared — including open source databases for articles, software, and image libraries.

 

How do you demonstrate social responsibility with respect to educational materials? 

Not only does using OER resources allow one to easily customize unique courses, it makes the access for students much easier. Many students can barely afford tuition, let alone pay for support materials. Providing OER options allows students to put their best foot foward in achieving their educational goals without going into debt (or further debt), or potentially lowering their goals, or even abandoning them. These students, upon graduation, can then take what they learned to enhance their lives and those of others. Paying it forward. 

 

Any other compelling aspects in your OER story? 

It is important to make sure that proper citations are still provided so that course developers and students know who to thank for the educational opportunity. This also allows individuals to give back in the form of either content updates and/or suggestions to continue the legacy.